Christie’s to Auction Historic $3.9 Million Spitfire Plane From World War II
A rare World War II–era Vickers Supermarine Spitfire Mk.1A – P9374 airplane is being auctioned off at Christie’s London on July 9, where it is expected to fetch £1.5 million–2.5 million ($2.3 million–3.9 million).
“It is arguably one of the most beautiful pieces of technology ever created,” Thomas Kaplan, who owns two Spitfires, told the International Business Times. “It is as graceful as any piece of modernist design.”
The Spitfire that is up for auction belly-landed on the beach of Calais in May of 1940 during the Battle of Dunkirk. The plane was flown under the Royal Air Force’s 92 Squadron.
Though German soldiers posed for photographs with the beached plane, they left it to sink into the sand. The pilot, Peter Cazenove, was able to land during low tide, and eventually fought in Calais before being captured as a prisoner of war.
Cazenove died in 1980, shortly before the plane was rediscovered during a particularly dramatic tide.
Restoration began in 2007, and took three years to complete. The plane was able to take to the air again in September 2011. It is one of only two original models that are still able to fly.
For Kaplan, rebuilding the plane was a way “to pay homage to those who Churchill called ‘the Few,’ the pilots who were all that stood between Hitler’s darkness and what was left of civilization,” he explained in a statement.
Many of the Spitfire’s original components were salvageable, and all the replacement parts were faithful to the original, down to the date of production. “It’s certainly the most authentic restoration that’s been done,” Martin Overall, one of 12 engineers on the project, told Christie’s in a video interview.
The auction (part of the annual Exceptional Sale) is being held in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain.
“This is the plane that helped save Britain in 1940 and helped Britain ultimately to win the war. That in itself gives it a special place in history,” historian James Holland told Christie’s.
While the restored plane has been flown by pilot John Romain, the auction house is quick to note that it is being sold as a collector’s item. “Christie’s makes no promise that the Spitfire is of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or airworthy,” the lot description warns prospective buyers.
The plane is currently on view at the Churchill War Rooms in London.
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